This is the story of how my favourite Grandpa, my mum Annalissa's dad, and how he still let's me know he's still around and loves me. Even though he died some 15 years ago this year.
Due to overwhelming tears with my prior stories, I am issuing a "Tissue Alert". I don't want a flood warning to come into effect.
Ok, so here we go. My Grandpa Ignacius, or Grandpa Iggy as we all called him, was different from a lot of grandpa's in the world. He was a CLOWN! Yes, a REAL clown. Not just a very funny grandpa, though he was that too, and very kind. He spoiled me rotten and I was his favourite.
My Grandpa Iggy had had a very rough start to life. He was born very, very poor to hard working Mexican farmers, my Great-Grandparents Solomon and Nicola. They had 15 children, 11 only lived to be adults. Iggy was number 14, and the last one who lived to make it to adulthood. The last child, another son, died soon after birth. Sadly Great-Granny Nicola died when Grandpa Iggy was 10. He grew up in a small farming community called Hallieous (sp?) not far from Juarez. He didn't know what TV was until he came to the USA at nearly 25 and grew up with no electricity, running water, indoor toilet or phone. In fact no one in his town had a phone. They had to ride a horse or drive if they had a car to the next town over, which was bigger to use a phone or get a policeman if one was needed.
When he was 15 his family moved to Mexico City so his father and new stepmother Janina could get better work, as the farm went broke due to a drought for so many years.
My Grandpa Iggy hated school. He was dyslexic and the teachers gave him a hard time and he would often come home and cry at night. With a lot of his older siblings working he asked my G. Grandpa Solomon if he could leave school and get a job. Solomon agreed, as he knew how much Iggy struggled in school and promised to help him get work.
Soon Grandpa Iggy was working with G. Grandpa Solomon in a factory making body parts for cars. Iggy liked the job and loved working with his dad as they were very close and shared the same birthday (April 28th). Iggy got his apprenticeship as a metal machinist four years later and the family was very proud. He would have stayed working there had it not been for a trip to the circus on his birthday on his 21st birthday. And I wouldn't be here if he didn't go either.
My Grandpa Iggy was taken to the circus by his parents and his two sisters Christine (whom I'm named for) and Angela (whom my baby sister is named for). Iggy loved the circus, especially the clowns. They made him laugh and forget about being so poor for a little while. Even though he had a good job, it wasn't long after the war and no one had much money.
For days after he'd gone to the circus, Iggy was smiling. He told everyone about the clowns and how much he'd love to be one. Everyone laughed at him and told him to not be silly. My Great-Grandpa Solomon told him to get his head out of the clouds. He was angry Iggy wanted to leave a good job.
Grandpa Iggy didn't listen to them, and next year when the circus returned my grandpa went to talk to the boss about working for them and the boss gave him a job as a peanut and drink seller. And the man who had the elephants told him he could pay Iggy to help him feed and wash them. So Iggy packed his few possessions in his old car and joined the P.T. Barnham Circus. He enjoyed the work but bugged the boss to do more and the boss said he'd talk to the clowns as Iggy wanted to be a clown. Soon Iggy was training to be a clown and he would do short appearances in the acts soon after he became a fully signed on clown and acted under the name "Iggy Mash the Wonder Juggler." He could juggle 12 balls at once. He also breathed fire and did knife throwing. He was very talented and the kids loved him.
The circus became his new family as circus people do. Especially when he met his wife, my grandma Eloisa, a full-blooded Sioux, who worked as the horse trainer for the circus and rode the horses in costume in the ring. (It's were I get my love for horses, I think). In two years they got married and while working they had 5 children, including my mother Annalissa the oldest of the 5 who trained with her mum and by the age of 6 was riding in the ring with my grandma Eloisa on the horses and her pony Nipper, a white Shetland pony.
They stayed in the circus until my grandma had a accident and broke her legs badly when her horse JJ fell on her doing a trick. And they retired from the circus near its winter home in Florida.
My mum and her sister and brothers went to school and did well. My grandma got a job training show-jumpers and eventing horses... And grandpa had two jobs, one as a sheet welder (like his old factory job) and his beloved work... Doing children's parties as the famous "Iggy Mash" with the now outgrown Nipper the Wonder Pony and Dash the Fox Terrier as his side kicks. Kids loved him and he could settle any crying baby or any shy or nervous kid he'd make his assistant at parties. He rarely had time off.
For the rest of his life he spent being a welder during the day and a clown on weekends. He lived to he was 72 years old and died from cancer and heart problems with possible diabetes problems too as he had diabetes since he was 12. My family was at a loss. Our patriarch was gone. Our funny man who always made us feel on top of the world.
At his funeral nearly 900 people turned up. Including his nearly 100 year old former circus boss. It was an interesting site. Circus performers did a show... A ringmater who was a registered priest presided over it all. The newspaper obits had FOUR columns dedicated to him 3 days straight. And of course I was there. I didn't hardly stop crying the whole week. We mourned him with visitors and then the funeral and wake. I thought my heart would break. And I cried until I had no more tears. My best friend was gone and I had no one to tell me funny stories and scary tales anymore. Iggy was so great at that.
It wasn't long before I had to go back to England for work and college (last year of study). As my final Art thesis, I decided to make a painting dedicated to Grandpa Iggy. It was a split portrait of a normal looking Grandpa Iggy looking into a mirror, the reflection showing him in his clown costume and make-up. It got a A+ and 98%... My teacher told me that the papers I wrote with it about my grandpa made her cry. And she was a hard teacher to please. I think Iggy helped. He always encouraged my creative arts.
As I was busy working and at college my heart was trying to heal. Each night I'd pray to God that Iggy was safe and was well again... I cried all the time at night and talked to him like he was still there, wishing he was there to joke around like we used to.
One night after prayers, I was crying and saying I wished I could go and be with him cause it hurt so much. I was sitting on my bed in the dorm and had a photo of him in a frame on my lap, when suddenly I heard a big loud laugh and I could smell the greasepaint that clowns use in shows. The smell and the laughter floated around me for about a minute and was gone in a flash.
That's when I realized the laugh and the smell was familiar. It was the way my Grandpa Iggy sounded and smelled when he was doing a show. He had obviously heard me crying and in his own way, the way I'
D notice him best, let me know he was ok.
For the next week, every night just before 11 pm, for a few seconds the same laughter and greasepaint smell would turn up, float around me like he'd run around me in a circle and was gone. By the end of the week I stopped feeling so bad because I knew he still loved me. And would always still be there if I needed to talk to him.
Every now and then still to this day, nearly 15 years later, I have nights where I wake up to that joyous laughter and the smell of grease paint. Just for a minute. Always around 11 pm.
Thank you Grandpa Iggy. The great Iggy Mash. Ignacius Roberto Solomon DeFlores - Martinus. The greatest Clown in Heaven. The best Grandpa too. Rest in Peace, Grandpa Iggy. I'm still trying to juggle.